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I understand what confidential information means, but can a person be confidential? Can you use it to describe a person who you can trust with sensitive information? "She is organized, resourceful and confidential?"

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    It's a common usage to say "She is a very close friend. I can confide in her anything".
    – Varun Nair
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:20
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    No, a person can't be "confidential." So a sentence like "Tim is confidential" is wrong. However a person could be a "confidential adviser" for instance.
    – MaxW
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:23
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    Why not? I know someone who is a confidential secretary!
    – Maulik V
    Jan 25, 2016 at 10:38
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    Because a "confidential person" would be someone who other people are not supposed to know about, and and not a person who can keep confidences. Jan 25, 2016 at 15:41
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    @JBKing But that too is a case where "confidential" really modifies the act of informing (or the act of performing secretarial duties) embedded within the noun "informant" (or "secretary"). Any adjective modifying a "doer" noun has this property Thus "illegal immigrant" triggers the "A person is not illegal!" objection raised by people who don't really understand how English works ("illegal" modifies the act of immigration, not the person doing it). Jan 25, 2016 at 18:02

3 Answers 3

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A person who can keep a secret (confidential information) is said to be

a confidant
discreet
tight-lipped
trusted

The woman was his mistress and confidant.
The manager discreetly handled the situation to not draw any attention.
The concierge was tight-lipped about the personal matters of the hotel guests.
Her trusted aide never revealed what happened behind the scenes.

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    Not to be confused with "confident".
    – Varun Nair
    Jan 25, 2016 at 11:08
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    +1 for confidant, I think that's exactly the word OP is looking for.
    – Mast
    Jan 25, 2016 at 15:05
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    @Mast except that confidant is a noun, and OP is looking for an adjective.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 25, 2016 at 19:59
  • @corsiKa "She is organized, resourceful and a confidant" would work I think.
    – Mast
    Jan 25, 2016 at 20:11
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    I'd be more careful with a confidant, as it implies that you already confide in her. Discreet would be better choice if you are describing general trait
    – Erbureth
    Jan 26, 2016 at 12:13
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No, generally the word used for that is "discreet". A discreet person is sensitive to secrets and won't misuse them. "Trustworthy" is also good in a more broad sense.

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I can think of one sense in which a person can be "confidential". It means somebody whose identity is confidential. The term "confidential informant" or "confidential source" can refer to someone who gives information to someone else under an agreement not to publish his or her name.

  • One example is a "whistleblower", or someone who witnesses abuse within an organization and reports this abuse to the mass media.
  • Another is a "criminal informant", a former criminal who cooperates with a police investigation in exchange for less harsh punishment.

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